The Virtues of Journaling

Obviously writing is a big part of my life. And I’ve taken steps in the past year to help other people bring more writing into their lives too. The workshops that I’ve been teaching so far are mostly about overcoming your internal barriers that are keeping you from writing, and the focus is generally on writing that you one day intend to share with others.

But recent conversations have led to a new series that will focus on writing just for you.

Since I can remember, I’ve kept a journal. Most of these were real, physical, paper journals. There were also years and years where I journaled on computers, and sadly most of these years were lost. There is one particular summer of fervent journaling in an attic of my first real home away from home; I was 19, and I journaled each and every day. I think about these journals often, and am so sad that I didn’t make more of an effort to preserve them permanently.

Journaling is a lost art. But I think that it’s making a comeback. Journaling might at first conjure images of a pre-teen girl scribbling , “Dear Diary…” in a flower covered book with a tiny gold lock on the cover. And this is a 100% valuable experience for that girl, which should in no way be diminished. But journaling is also a whole lot more – from helping with creative thought, to mental health issues, there isn’t a lot that journaling can’t help with.

If you dig back in time, you’ll find that most, if not all, great writers, inventors, runners, academics, and dreamers kept journals. Albert Einstein kept a journal. Virginia Woolf kept a journal. Earnest Hemingway kept a journal. Obviously and famously, Anne Frank kept a journal. Google “famous people who kept journals” and you will find list upon list of famous journals, and words of wisdom from famous journalers on the virtues of journaling.

A journal is a way of documenting the present, but it is also a tool for reflection. It’s a tool for working through the backlogs of your subconscious mind, but consciously and on paper. It’s a way of sifting through the fog of your dream state and turning it into something real.

“’There is physicality in reading,’ says developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University” (via Scientific American). And so, there is to writing as well. I’ve tried different journals over the years, of varying size, and level of fanciness, but my go to favourite is a 5 dollar hard cover 5 ½”x 8” sketchbook that you can find at pretty much any art supplies store. It allows for writing, or doodling, or whatever. There is no imposed format. It’s big enough to write a full page, but not so large that it’s cumbersome. My go-to pens are the Classic Poppin Ballpoint and the Staedler Triplus Fineliner. There is nothing worse (ok, there are a lot of things worse, but whateveeeeeeeer) than trying to write with a pen that you hate, or in a book that you have no desire to keep writing in because it’s not quite right. Find writing implements that you love. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend hundreds of dollars on a custom, monogrammed, leather-bound journal, but don’t feel like you need to use a Field Notes or MoleSkine journal because they are “cool” even though you don’t derive joy from them (full disclosure – while I don’t write in Field Notes, I DO use the Field Notes Original Plain Memo Books for my every day ongoing to-do lists, and they are great).

ANYWAYS. If you’re stuck on an idea at work, or in a creative project that you’re working on in your own time; if you are going through something personally and need somewhere to vent; if you’re trying out writing again for the first time in years and years, and you feel rusty as all hell and just want to practice; if you’re planning out your dream trip/project/life, and need somewhere to document your thoughts on how to make it happen – give journaling a try.

Even if it feels awkward at first, keep at it; after a time, you just might find that you love it.

 

 

 

 

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My baby died and left me

the gentlewoman

 

So something terrible happened this weekend. Ok, not really that terrible, but not a good thing. My computer’s hard drive died. THANKFULLY, I backed up somewhat recently, but with the long weekend, every tech in Toronto is out of the office until Tuesday, so there’s no computer fixing until well into the week.

I’m ashamed to admit that this was probably a good thing. Why? Because lately, a lot of my time spent at home is also spent with perpetually playing Netflix in the background of my life. Instead of days spent in bed reading, there have been days spent in bed catching up with Dawson and Joey. Instead of listening to music and podcasts while cooking dinner, it has been Gordon Ramsey yelling at failing restauranteurs. So while I am most definitely not pleased with my computer troubles, what I am pleased with is this forced break from my shameful Netflix addiction.

Anyways… the REAL point of this blog post is to talk about one of my new favourite publications, which I finally finished reading this weekend. I picked up a copy of the gentlewoman from Easy Tiger  a few weeks ago, and read through the cover story on Vivienne Westwood, and a few of the shorter pieces, but then it sat on my bedside table unattended to until yesterday morning. Where the gentlewoman doesn’t differ from other women’s fashion magazines is that it has beautiful editorial spreads telling stories through photography and clothes, where it does differ is in its storytelling of women’s lives, young and old, from different creative disciplines.

The thing that I noticed most about the interviews in the gentlewoman is that rather than focus on what the specific woman is most famous for, or her new beau, or her sense of style, they focused on showing each woman as a complex person with different interests, and full rich lives whether or not there was a man involved, or they had children, or whatever. The other thing that I noticed was that even though the interviews covered women of many different ages, this was never the focus of the article. So many pieces on women are all, “OMG! A successful WOMAN! But before we talk about her career… check out this MAN THAT SHE DATED!! ZOMG! Plus, find out if she regrets having/not having children! If she’s a mother, she is also a SAINT. How did she get anything done?!?! Plus, she’s only XX years old! (alternately, “she’s SO OLD, but can you believe it, she still looks ok, and people still pay attention to her even!”)

The main thing though, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING about reading the gentlewoman, is that unlike other women’s fashion mags, when I put it down, I did not feel inadeuqate; I did not feel fat; I did not feel like something was missing from my life; I felt inspired, and calm, and supported by other strong women, and like I wanted to go out into the world and be amazing, and write, and eat croissants, and work hard, and go for runs, and drink with friends, and live life. And if that’s not worth 15 dollars twice a year, I don’t know what is.

THE END.

First

I guess that I started this a while ago with the hopes that just creating a blog basically about nothing or anything, that it would just encourage me to write. I guess that I was wrong.

Then last month, I went to a Creative Mornings Vancouver talk with Jessica Hische. She spoke about the intersection of art and tech, and really just drove home the whole mantra that you just have to get out there and do shit. It’s not going to do itself. And also, at the end of the day, it’s really not very hard. YOU JUST HAVE TO STOP BEING LAZY AND AFRAID.

So there is my springboarding point of inspiration. I was going to do it. I was going to sit down and write, and I was also going to make a beautiful website by learning to code myself rather than waiting around for someone to do it for me. I was going to do it that very weekend. Or so I thought…

As it turns out, on top of being lazy about writing, I am also lazy about updating my operating system. dun dun DUN. It is Summer 2012, and I am ashamed to admit that I am still running on Leopard. Not SNOW Leopard… just the regular kind. To my dismay, there is NO html text editor that is crappy enough to still be running on this OS. Undaunted, I thought to myself. NO PROBLEM! I will just download it now!

The problem with this is that Apple does not appreciate lazy assholes who don’t continuously update their software and devices compulsively, and so it was not possible for me to download Snow Leopard from the Internet. In fact, it was not even possible for me to mosey down to the Apple store to purchase it. No, dear reader, the only way for me to update my sad OS was to order a CD and have them ship it to me at home within 7-10 business days.

My dream was allayed, albeit temporarily. But “never fear”, I thought, “what’s a week?!”

Enter UPS.

You would think that a company that is built on delivering things to people personally, would make some real attempt to actually make this happen in some sort of reasonable and organized way. You would be wrong. After three attempts to deliver my package to my home in the middle of the day while I was at work, I finally got the notice “call to arrange for pickup”. “Great!”, I thought, “Now I can just head down to the nearest UPS office after work, and I will finally have a (slightly) updated computer! Victory is mine!”

I cheerfully called UPS to find out where my pickup location would be. I was greeted by a robot who asked me various questions, and after having punched in various combinations of numbers, spat out an address where I could pick up my package. But the location was not near my home. It as actually not even accessible by transit. In fact, the google maps suggestion was for me to hop on the skytrain and take it 30 minutes out of town, then get off the skytrain, and walk for another 30 minutes before getting to the UPS pickup point. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!

I explained to the robot that this was unacceptable, and shortly after it hung up on me. I decided that maybe I would make more progress online. After 20 minutes of searching, I found the option to change the delivery address. WONDERFUL! Or it would have been, if I hadn’t gotten an error message several minutes later that this option was not available to me and that I needed to call to talk to their lovely customer service robot again. Maybe she could actually help me this time.

20 more minutes later, after much button punching and various attempts at yelling “real person”, “customer service agent” “no” “shutup” “I hate you” at the robot, I was finally connected to a real human being. YAY! This person will be able to help me! Oh, how I was wrong.

Not only did I find out that there was no way to change the delivery location to my place of work, but there was also no way to set up any sort of time block in which the UPS agent would stop by. “Anywhere between 9am and 7pm” was as specific as they could be.

“Ummm… well, I have a job, so that isn’t possible. I can’t actually be home for 10 hours straight.”

“Welll… we CAN ask the agent to TRY to be there around a certain time, but there is no guarantee that that will happen”

“Sooooo… is there any point in asking you to ‘designate’ a time, or is this just something that you’re saying to try to make me feel like you’re actually doing something about this problem”

“Well… we CAN ask the agent to TRY to be there around a certain time, but there is no guarantee that that will happen”

“that is the exact same thing that you just said”

“…”

“Also, my buzzer does not work, so can you please have them call me when they arrive.”

“We can’t guarantee that the UPS employee will have a phone on them when they arrive, so we can’t actually arrange that”

“… OK, well I guess that they could try throwing pebbles at my window, but that probably won’t work out very well.”

This went on for a while and finally ended something like this:

“So what you’re telling me is that it’s actually completely  impossible for me to get this package, and there is no way that you can try to make that more convenient or even remotely in the realm of a possible thing that can happen”

“Well, I will make a note to ask them to maybe stop by before a certain time, and to try to call you if they have a phone, but I can’t guarantee either of those things, so I suggest that you just sit outside of the front door to your building for ten hours straight waiting for us to show up whenever” (this last part is only SLIGHTLY paraphrased)

DEAR UPS, EAT DICKS!

So here I am, sitting at home, waiting and hoping for them to show up. It is already three hours past the ‘suggested time’, and I am hungry and angry and I need to leave my apartment to get a cup of coffee, but I know that this will be the exact moment that they will arrive.

As an aside, Apple’s customer service was no more helpful.

Let’s see if I ever get this thing!

Lesson: If you wait too long to update your OS, UPS and Apple will conspire to make it easier for you to buy a brand new computer than to update your current one.

THE END.